Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jan 2017
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 The StarPhoenix
Author: Alex MacPherson
Page: A4


City takes action to prepare for crisis that has claimed hundreds in

We haven't seen the crisis that we've seen in Vancouver or in
Winnipeg, but we're going to start to see it, I would suspect.

Saskatoon firefighters started carrying the anti-overdose drug
naloxone this week and other agencies are exploring the idea in
response to what the fire department's assistant chief described as a
fentanyl and opioid crisis sweeping across the country.

The Saskatoon Fire Department is preparing for an expected increase in
overdoses by equipping each of its 14 trucks with a $30 kit containing
the opioid inhibitor, Rob Hogan told reporters Thursday.

"We haven't seen the crisis that we've seen in Vancouver or in
Winnipeg, but we're going to start to see it, I would suspect," Hogan
said. "What happens everywhere else comes to Saskatoon

Naloxone, which is sold under the brand name Narcan, blocks opioid
receptors in the central nervous system. It temporarily halts the
effects of drugs like heroin and fentanyl, and gives first responders
more time to keep patients alive, Hogan said.

The fire department has more than 60 primary care paramedics on staff
who are trained to administer the drug, and each truck carries two

The Saskatoon Police Service is exploring a similar idea, a spokesman

"It's a very valuable drug for us to carry," Hogan said, noting he
witnessed at least one case in which naloxone not only saved an
overdose victim's life, but allowed the patient to start walking
within about 10 minutes.

Data from the Saskatchewan's chief coroner shows that confirmed
accidental overdose deaths climbed sharply between 2010 and 2014,
peaked in 2015 and fell off last year. However, fentanyl is
increasingly responsible for those deaths.

In 2010, there were 52 accidental opioid overdose deaths in the
province, of which two were attributable to fentanyl. By comparison,
21 of the 86 deaths recorded in 2015 were caused by the potent drug.

Between 2013-16, Saskatoon led the province in fentanyl overdose
deaths with 22 - a dozen of which occurred in 2015 alone. Regina
recorded just seven fentanyl overdose deaths over the same period,
according to the coroner's office.

The coroner's data does not include cases that are still under
investigation, which could include deaths from 2016.

In 2014-15, Saskatchewan had the country's highest opioid-related
hospitalization rate, according to a report published last year by the
Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Canadian Centre on
Substance Abuse.

Just over 220 people were hospitalized for reasons related to opioid
drugs that year, an average of about 21 per 100,000 people. By
comparison, the national average over the same period was 13.4
hospitalizations per 100,000 people.

Ambulance crews have been carrying the drug for about 20 years, and
reported a sharp increase in the number of doses administered over the
last two years, MD Ambulance spokesman Troy Davies said.

"What (the dextrose solution) D50 is for diabetics, Narcan is for
narcotic overdoses," he said. "If it's a true narcotic overdose, it'll
wake the patients up immediately, to the point where they're waking up
aggressive and not happy that you killed their high."

Because identifying the dosage contained in a fentanyl tablet is
difficult, its rise has increased the potential for accidental
overdoses in the province, according to the Saskatoon Health Region's
director of mental health and addiction services.

While more can always be done to address the root causes of addiction
- - including mental health and poverty - increased access to naloxone
kits is "a very good thing," Tracy Muggli said, noting that kits are
also available through the health region.

Naloxone can also protect first-responders, who can be harmed by
exposure to concentrated fentanyl powder, and is part of a "layered"
health strategy, said Peter Butt, an associate professor in the
University of Saskatchewan's department of family medicine.

"Our hope is that by preserving life we can engage people in
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